Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Truth is Boring

I’ve been uncharacteristically drawn towards all things non-fiction lately, which is a real departure from my usual inclination for lies and oblivious escapism. Brooke and I talked a bit about interrupting our endless stream of fiction books (her: “But Harry Potter could be true”) and picking up some topical, non-fiction ones. I started looking through some titles seeing if any topic peeked my interest, but then I realized that reading a non-fiction book comes dangerously close to “learning,” something I swore off after the first student loan payment was automatically debited from my checking account.

Instead, I decided to stick with movies. We watched a documentary called “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” about the MPAA rating system. Apparently, all movies are reviewed by a secret board made up of normal people. The identities of the reviewers are kept private to shield them from criticism and influence. The film’s premise was that maybe their identities are kept secret because they are a bunch of right-wing assholes. Or something, I don’t know I wasn’t really paying attention.

My problem with documentaries is that I get too wrapped up in their “causes.” Like at the first whiff of injustice towards these film makers I wanted to rise up and fix the movie rating industry. Then I thought about how hard that would be. I have a wedding next weekend, and then it’s Labor Day weekend after that and I’m not overpaying to fly out to L.A. that weekend. So instead I just tune out and resolve to let the problem fix itself because not being a meddler is just as admirable.

After that I watched “Escape From Alcatraz,” which is a movie about a young porn star’s rise to fame in war torn South America an attempted escape from Alcatraz. The movie, starring Clint Eastwood and other actors that I would recognize if I was cool enough to care about movies made before I was born, is based on true events, which is non-fictional enough for my purposes.

It was actually really good. Normally older movies come off as watered-down version of newer movies (because virtually every new movie has been made before, except now with the benefit of 25 years of technological advancement and time to improve upon the story), but because this was a true story it just was what it was. And the actual events are pretty amazing. The details of the escape attempt are what Stephen King based “The Shawshank Redemption” on, right down to hiding his digging tool inside a Bible.

After the movie was over, Brooke and I did some research to see if the movie portrayed the whole event accurately. And can you believe it? They didn’t. Apparently, when something is “based on true events” they sometimes change the story around to make it more interesting. For example, did you know that The DaVinci Code is a lie? And not even just the parts about DaVinci embedding a code of secrets into his art, which, when decoded, unlocks the secrets of the true lineage of the Lord, but that God doesn’t even exist! It’s true, I saw it on Wikipedia.

It turns out that while the details of the escape plan are pretty accurate, all the surrounding circumstances were way off. Like how they portrayed the warden as a totalitarian prick who drove inmates to suicide and then coldly looked at the camera and says, “Some people aren’t meant to leave Alcatraz . . . alive.” He was actually a really nice, well-respected guy. I mean, his nickname was "Golden Rule Warden." I’m pretty sure that any time you have the word “golden” in your nickname you’re not such a meanie (unless it’s like Jimmy “Golden Rapist” Schuller, which is a pretty stupid nickname anyway).

Also, the movie suggests that the escape was a factor in the closing of the prison when really the process of closing the prison was in effect before the escape ever happened. So I got to reading some more about Alcatraz, and that’s when I read this:

In 1969, six years after the closing of the Federal prison on the island, a group of American Indians from many different tribes, calling themselves Indians of All Tribes, occupied the island.

Wait, what? The Indians occupied somewhere? And not just somewhere, but a prison? Isn’t that like occupying a garbage dump? Or a nuclear waste facility? It’s not like they hijacked anything useful… Indeed, the government felt the same way:

From the Indians side, the negotiations were fixed. They wanted the deed to the island, they wanted to establish an Indian university, a cultural center, and a museum. The government negotiators insisted that the occupiers could have none of these and insisted that they leave the island.

This reminds me of how I used to try to make deals with my mom when I was young. I would get home from school and say, “I’m not leaving my room until I get five cookies,” and she would say, “I’ll see you at dinner.”

Finally, two years after the occupation began, the government decided it had had enough:

On June 10, 1971, armed federal marshals, FBI agents, and special forces police swarmed the island and removed five women, four children, and six unarmed Indian men. The occupation was over.

Now, don’t think me insensitive. I’m not one of those people who thinks that the colonial settlers had the right to take America from the Indians because they were wasting it with all their peaceful living and respecting the land. It was a dick thing to do. I admit it. But come on, 15 people? You’ve been abused and mistreated for centuries, and this is your big gesture? The survivors on “Lost” sent more of a message to The Others than this. All I’m saying is, if the old adage “Living well is the best revenge” is true, then moving your family into a prison is the revenge equivalent of throwing a pie in your mugger’s face. And he loves pie.

So I decided that in the movie version of this story which I will eventually produce, the Indian force will number in the mid-hundreds. And they will still use bows and arrows to defend themselves against the American coalition forces because that’s honorable so that their eventual defeat (after a decade or so of intense fighting) will be because the white man pulled another sneaky trick like supplying them with blankets laced with small pox. Only this time they send in furniture from Ikea to make their cramped surroundings seem more spacious and economic. But when the furniture breaks after just a few months, they need more and are forced to leave the island to visit the nearest showroom, where they are promptly sprayed with smallpox. I’m hoping for a PG-13 rating from the MPAA. Those assholes.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you prove that wizards don't exist?

August 14, 2007 at 2:19:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny, funny, funny, Dan!

I love you and your blog.

-SLC

August 14, 2007 at 2:34:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Neil said...

Escape from Alcatraz was one of my father's favorite movies (he loved that sort of old-style macho stuff) and I've seen the film countless times. And I remember visiting Alcatraz fore the first time when I moved to California and heard about the true story, and it was at that moment that I became cynical about life, thinking everything I ever learned was fake.

August 14, 2007 at 2:36:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Scottsdale Girl said...

Peeked?

Piqued?

IDK

You forgot about "The Rock" (nick cage, sean connery)

August 14, 2007 at 4:30:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another awesome post!

For two great currentish movies (Clint Eastwood as director in these cases) that are "based on real events" see "Letters from Iwo Jima" and "Flags of Our Fathers." Both are excellent, absorbing, all the good stuff.

Scottsdale girl: piqued.

August 14, 2007 at 5:09:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Dan said...

Sure, why don't you guys just gang up on me? Maybe you have a nice warm blanket to offer me too.

August 14, 2007 at 5:13:00 PM EDT  
Blogger sleepyrn said...

Watch out Dan. You might LEARN something by reading these comments!

August 14, 2007 at 5:44:00 PM EDT  
Blogger SAILOR MOON said...

Oh im glad i have internet again to read you posts... **smiles**

August 14, 2007 at 9:46:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you remember back in the day when you used to post on a little site called The Daily Dump? It really was daily... and I miss those days. Now you post at some dumb travel site where it is almost impossible to search for JUST you and I still check here everyday, but you're only... you know, weekly at best. Very sad, Dan. Very sad.

August 15, 2007 at 3:35:00 PM EDT  
Blogger BOB13 said...

Dan, Hollywood needs your genius NOW. Why are you wasting your talent in New York working as an office clone?

August 15, 2007 at 4:36:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Faith said...

I remember when I saw that movie that I was very impressed by the escapee's ability to deal with all the small, confined spaces that the escape included. That narrow wall of pipes section of the prison that he had to shimmy through? Fuck that shit! I'd have stayed in my cell, thankyouverymuch.

Every time I hear of Alcatraz now, I think of Eddie Izzard. Aalcatraazzz...

August 15, 2007 at 5:04:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The posts are funnier every time I visit. The guest comments are good stuff too... my favorites are the people who critique you, as if you owed them something better for their free visit to your site.

I vote you charge for membership. I'm good to match my annual donation to NPR.. these are the only two places I get my news and entertainment.. it's worth it.

Thanks Dan, and Brooke for keeping Dan in his happy place. I wish you both the very best.
- a fan from the OC

August 15, 2007 at 10:17:00 PM EDT  
Blogger sid said...

LOL! I absolutely loved the part where Indians are tricked into using Ikea furtinute giving them the illusion that they have more room than they really have. Haven't the Indians suffered enough? I too miss the DAILY dump.

August 16, 2007 at 4:22:00 AM EDT  

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